Wood working supplies - choose wisely.
Author: Dennis Bell, Bell Forest Products
A newcomer to woodworking can easily become overwhelmed by information overload. Sometimes in the heat of enthusiasm an aspiring wood butcher falls under the spell of the myriad catalogs and advertisers on the web. Sometimes a workshop becomes cluttered with wood and tools that are unnecessary.
We all have an opinion on what is essential in a wood shop. The best advice I can give is to "buy quality". I began buying woodworking tools when I was in college and on an extremely tight budget. Over a 12 year period I bought three inexpensive (cheap) table saws. All three were worthless. It is preferable to have a good circular saw like a Milwaukee to a cheap table saw. With a circular saw one can rip using jigs, plunge, crosscut and dado better than on a junk table saw. That circular saw can also last a lifetime. Ten years ago I bought a Delta Unisaw for less money than I spent on the three junk predecessors. I use the Delta daily and fully expect it will be used by my heirs long after I am gone. Remember, quality does not cost, it pays.
For a new shop the following are my preferences in stationary power tools in order of importance:
- Band saw
- Drill Press
- Router Table
A good band saw can out rip a table saw any day and is essential for resawing anything wider than 4". The next best advice is to create "a place for everything and then keep everything in it's place". Following this advice will assure you of pleasure and gratification. After spending time in an organized shop you will actually be able to put your hands on items with your eyes closed. It is truly amazing and eventually becomes automatic.
Hand tools are not an option, they are a necessity. For example, you can get by without a jointer for a time if you have a sharp jointer hand plane. The trick here, once again, is quality tools and sharp edges. It is imperative to learn how to properly sharpen your tools and learning this skill should be near the top of your list.
Woodworking supplies fall into two major categories. Wants and needs and it is best to focus on needs. For example, we all need sandpaper of varying grits and it is a need. By buying in quality sandpaper bulk the price is reasonable and you won't often run out. In contrast, a biscuit jointer is a want. It is best to learn joinery techniques that serve to improve your skills and do not require gadgets.